David Mills, the internet’s ‘father time,’ dies at 85
David L. Mills, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science from 1972 to 1977, and the inventor of the system enabling connected computers to synchronize their clocks—an essential technology relied upon by the entire modern internet—passed away on January 17 at his residence in Newark, Delaware. He was 85 years old.
His daughter, Eileen “Leigh” Schnitzler, confirmed the death but did not provide a specific cause.
Dr. Mills spent more than three decades as a professor at the University of Delaware and was active in designing key parts of the early internet in the late 1970s and 1980s. He was a lifelong contributor to open-source software, building tools that went on to be used and modified by engineers and tech companies to this day.
His dominant contribution was teaching computers how to tell the time.
In the 1970s, researchers were building out the Arpanet, an early, government-sponsored version of the web that connected various nodes at universities around the country. As the net grew and more machines were connected to it, the lack of a system to make sure they all had the same concept of time was beginning to cause problems.
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